Harming Workers Until the Very End

David Madland and Karla Walter detail how the Bush administration’s midnight regulations further weakened workers’ rights and protections.

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The Bush administration published a flurry of new regulations in the final months of its term that weaken protections for consumers, patients, the environment, and especially workers. Workers, already threatened by the Bush Department of Labor’s weak and inadequate enforcement of worker protection laws, faced a barrage of midnight regulations from DOL. It is now up to the Obama administration to reverse the damage caused by these rule changes and improve the enforcement of worker protection laws already on the books.

A new report from the Center for American Progress and OMB Watch, “After Midnight: The Bush Legacy of Deregulation and What Obama Can Do,” highlights the Bush administration’s rush to pass rules across all areas of government, enshrining its hands-off ideology in the final months of its tenure. According to, the Office of Management and Budget’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs approved 157 final rules from September 1, 2008 to December 31, 2008—nearly a 90-percent increase over the same period in 2007, which saw 83 final rules. This activity is common at the end of a president’s term, but the Bush administration placed a unique focus on rules that would deregulate important public protections rather than deliver improved oversight or increased public benefit.

The Bush administration’s DOL recently published new regulations that include provisions that make it harder for workers to take unplanned, paid leave to care for themselves or an ill family member, weaken DOL protections for immigrant workers in the United States on legal work visas, and expose longshoremen to dangerous container lifts.

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David Madland

Senior Fellow; Senior Adviser, American Worker Project

Karla Walter

Senior Fellow, Inclusive Economy